Need New Routines

Before we get started, I’d like to announce that anybody who says, “You need to get your kids to do more of that,” is automatically drafted to come live in my house for two weeks while I take a much-needed mental health vacation alone.  You get my kids to do that, and then you can show me how you did it.  Or you can run away screaming and never say that again, which is what most people do. The best I’ve been able to get on a good week is my kids doing maybe half what they are capable of doing, and most of that’s only if I stand over them, telling them exactly what to do and how.

It’s time to shake up my life again.  My health is doing some things that say my self and my body need more attention.  My gods are seeking my attention.  My home desperately needs more care to again become the haven it should always be.  And my budget needs more income.  My husband is having his second brain surgery in less than three months, and having good solid routines in place in a house that is clean and welcoming to him would be a huge blessing right now.  I need to find a way to maintain my health, mentally and physically; to cook healthy meals for myself and my family; to maintain my daily contact with deity; to devote necessary time to school and church commitments; to teach Kender how to read and stay on top of schooling for Jarod; and to declutter and clean my home and maintain it that way.

Last week, I worked really hard, but I couldn’t get much past the daily chores, laundry and dishes and cooking and such.  I spent 19 hours driving last week, which is not entirely unusual; although when my second-oldest is home she helps with the driving, she is gone for the next three weeks, and when she gets back she has her own job and school to deal with.

I have been on top of my game before, but things are always changing around here, so I am seeking crowd-sourced suggestions on new routines for getting things done.  The current skeleton parameters for my life are:

  • 8 hours of sleep per night for me, with an average wake time of 9am
  • I’m guessing an average of 5-10 hours a week of driving people around
  • At least two doctor or vet appointments per week, sometimes more (for reference, I see ten appointments for somebody other than myself on my calendar over the next month)
  • 2.5 hours of therapy for Kender on Fridays
  • Date night with my husband used to could be a weekly or monthly thing, but for his sake right now needs to happen at least twice a week, if not more

General household requirements:

  • Two loads of laundry every day
  • Two bathrooms to care for
  • One dog that must be thoroughly brushed, walked, fed, medicated, and trained every day
  • 5-6 cats with five litterboxes that need daily attention and medication
  • Dinner for eight every night (plus occasional guests, with planned leftovers to cover lunches and off days, requires menu planning and shopping time)

Here are the additional things that I need to add in just for me:

  • Time for nutrition logging and body monitoring (blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.)
  • An hour a day for exercise
  • Time for personal hygiene
  • Daily meditation and journaling
  • Daily time to create (knitting, crochet, sewing, whatever)
  • Time to pay attention to my household altars and shrines
  • Time for music, I have a harp and a piano here that are only getting played once every 2-3 months right now

Household additions that are needed:

  • 15-20 minutes per day decluttering and clearing
  • Regular time each day to balance the checkbook and pay bills
  • 1 hour a week of routine housecleaning
  • 15 minutes per day of deeper house cleaning
  • Regular time for home repairs (and time to learn how to do them)
  • Time for car cleaning
  • Time for yard work and gardening, so the outside looks welcoming and all my plants can survive

For my own seminary studies and volunteer work, I would like to have:

  • 2 hours a day of study time
  • 1 hour a day of volunteer time
  • Time to work on community commitments (writing rituals, prepping and holding regular sabbats, prepping workshops, maintaining my blog and social media pages)

For my kids’ homeschooling requirements, I need:

  • 1-2 hours a day working with Kender
  • Time to prep Kender’s school materials (the Brailler needs a complete overhaul, his books have to be brailled, things need tactile labels, etc.)
  • Time for field trips and park days with our homeschool group
  • 1 hour a day working with Jarod (with the rest of his to be done on his own, and reviewed during our time together)

I also need time for errands and things like:

  • Getting the car maintenance done (the little car has needed tires and alignment for two months now)
  • Giving gifts (bloody hell, I wish somebody else could do this for me, I love my peeps but I am a terrible gifter)
  • Sending thank you notes to people who have helped us (yeah, I know…)
  • Getting old clothes out to Goodwill, getting bottles out to the recycling center
  • Filling out paperwork for doctor’s appointments, A’Kos certification renewals, school forms

What I have found to work well in the past is to have strong routines, wherein the same thing happens every day.  This has been hard to maintain, especially since Kender was born and the doctor appointments started increasing, and since the older kids became teens and started doing so many things away from home.  I can’t even keep the doctor appointments away from the days we do other things, because (for example) our homeschool group does our weekly co-op/park days on Tuesdays, which is also the only day our retinal specialist sees patients.  Things like that.  I feel like every time I have tried to establish a regular routine over the past few years, it’s gotten shot in the face.  Nevermind how difficult it feels to me to be able to fit all these things in.  If I had all my wishes come true, there’d be money for a private school for Kender that would place him in kindergarten despite his age and adapt all his materials and teach him Braille, and there’d be a housekeeper coming in here once a week to do all the major cleaning.  Not sure anything else could be outsourced.

But anyway, there it is.  Give it a try.  Leave a comment here, or on Facebook, or come by and chat with me sometime.  I’m open to suggestions.

Gonna Get My Groove Back

I am getting achy again as winter creeps in, and I am tired of feeling like everything takes forever around here, so I am going back to an old tactic I used as a kid that works much better with today’s tech: the timer!  I’m going to race myself against the timer and see how I do, see just how long things really take if I apply myself.

My current list of daily essentials looks like this:

  • Brush out my hair
  • Shower and dress to shoes
  • Brush my teeth
  • Clean the downstairs bathroom
  • Reboot the laundry
  • Clean the upstairs bathroom
  • Morning kitchen blessing (clear and wipe tables and counters and stove, reboot dishes, reboot recycling)
  • Clean the litterboxes

Today’s essentials took 1:10 to complete.  Exceptions include writing a quick email to somebody before I forgot, emptying the household trash cans (normally a weekly chore), the first time cleaning the upstairs bathroom in quite a while, and stopping the timer before balancing the checkbook (something I want to include in the future).  I think in the future the timed run ought to include the things I do before I eat (making coffee, walking A’Kos, handing out medicine to animals and eyedrops to Kender, feeding the animals, tending my altar) with the timer stopped while I eat.

This went really well.  Competition is good, and anything that gets the chores out of my way faster is a good thing.

Did I earn a knitting break?

My Dailies List

In lieu of the wonderful post I thought I was going to make while I was in the shower, but promptly forgot the subject of once I had dressed, I present to you my daily to-do list.  This list has the benefit of having grown organically over the past month or so based off things that I kept forgetting or saw needing done, rather than somebody else’s idea of what I should be doing every day.  I also stopped putting things the kids are supposed to do on my own checklist, so I don’t feel like I’m not working hard enough when they don’t get their chores done.  I’m going to put time estimates on these and see what I come up with.

  • Check weather for day and open/close planters — 3 min
  • Check Khan Academy scores — This is a weekly for Sundays only. I check to see who gained the most points on Khan Academy for the week, and that child gets a treat. 5 min.
  • Take out trash to street — This is a weekly for Fridays only. It’s a nightmare when we forget to take the trash out! 2 min.
  • Make Bed — part of a clean-room challenge I signed up for. Mostly it’s here for points, as this is a habit I established years ago. — 30 sec
  • Journal if at quarter moon or Sabbat — I have to keep an eye on this one, since the day of the week shifts, but I turn it off when it doesn’t apply. — 10 min
  • Morning pain pills — 5 min for the morning as I get all my pills out for the day.
  • Check calendar and chores — 5 min.
  • Light altar candle and pray — 5 min.
  • Clean glasses — 30 sec
  • Give Kender morning eyedrops — 2 min
  • Get Kender dressed — He has started occasionally doing this himself, so maybe soon I can take this one off my list! — 3 min
  • Eat breakfast — 30-60 min
  • Morning vitamins — 1 min
  • Basic BW workout — This one is set for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only. This is in addition to any biking or skating I might do, which is not on any of my lists. 10 min
  • Flexibility Stretching — This one has Sundays off. 5 min
  • Shower and dress, brush teeth — 15 min
  • Change underwear — This was a silly HabitRPG challenge that I signed up for just to get XP, and because it had a gem award.
  • Attend To Personal Hygiene — Part of a “fighting depression” challenge, this includes plucking chin and eyebrow hairs, shaving, putting on makeup, fixing my hair nice, anything like that. 5 min
  • Clean downstairs bathroom — This is FlyLady’s “Swish and Swipe” routine. In about 30 seconds, I use shampoo to clean the toilet, spray down the shower with daily cleaner, spray and wipe the mirror, sink, counter, and outside of the toilet (including the base). Then I hang a fresh hand towel and take the used towel and washrags to the hamper.
  • Morning laundry — every laundry entry means to fold anything in the dryer, put anything in the washer into the dryer, and for morning and lunch to start a new load if there’s enough of anything to make a full load. At most I do 2 loads a day, and each laundry touch shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
  • Brush Kender’s hair and teeth — 7 min
  • Eat lunch — and fix lunch for Kender! 30-60 min
  • Lunch vitamins — 1 min
  • Lunch laundry — 15 min
  • 15 minutes nalbinding practice — This is an ancestral devotion for me, learning a craft that belonged to my Swedish and Viking ancestors.
  • Plan menus for this week and shop — This is a weekly on Mondays only. I still haven’t figured out how to do this in less than 4 hours, not when I’m trying to clip coupons and find deals.
  • Buy lotto tickets — a daily devotion/tithe for Loki — 10 min if I count walking to the corner store
  • Outside work — weeding the garden, planning future plantings, planting new seeds, cutting the grass, or in the winter shoveling snow, anything that is 15 minutes of improving the outdoors
  • Go Outside — Another part of the “fighting depression” challenge, it’s important to have this extra on there in case “outside work” that day is snow-sowing seeds. I need some sunshine and fresh air, one way or another.
  • Afternoon pain pills — 1 min
  • Afternoon vitamins — 1 min
  • Check mail — includes opening it and dealing with it, including the paper on Sundays. Pay the bills, scan/file documents, fill out and return paperwork, all of it. When I am on top of this, it only takes 5 minutes.
  • Do Money — balance the checkbook, balance any credit card statements that have shown up that day, make sure the checking register is run out a full month in advance so any future bills or recurring payment are planned for.  Again, when I am doing this daily, it only takes 5 minutes.
  • Afternoon laundry — 15 min
  • Evening pain pills — 1 min
  • Evening laundry — 15 min
  • Clean Something — 10 min
  • Kender’s evening eyedrops — 3 min
  • Blog post — Hey, I’m doing this now! 30-60 min
  • Magickal study or meditation — reading books for my clergy training, planning rituals, working on my Book of Shadows, etc. — 15 min
  • 15 minutes picking up — hitting the various hot spots on counters and tables
  • Use HabitRPG! — That’s a no-brainer XP generator!
  • Say Hello To Somebody — part of a “fighting depression” challenge. Online counts, the cashier at the store counts, any human contact outside of the family I live with counts.
  • Fly 5 Play to Cure routes — This is a video game set up to crowd-source DNA decoding for cancer research. I signed up as part of a challenge, and it’s a nice way to relax for a few minutes each day. 15 min
  • Read at least 40 pages — part of a “reading novels” challenge, it’s pretty easy to meet with my bedtime reading, and it keeps me from allowing all my reading to be studying or other non-fiction. 30 min
  • Duolingo French — I count gaining at least 30 XP for checking this one off. I chose French because Brenden is taking French, and it also connects me to my Cajun ancestry making it another devotional study. 15 min
  • Have a Conversation — Part of a “be more social” challenge, I have to go a step beyond saying hello for this one. Online still counts, though.
  • 10m Daily Dex — Part of a baoding ball challenge, I can do this while checking my Sock Madness boards in the mornings. It’s a good way to wake up my hands after they go numb at night.
  • Destroy all the monsters of the day — Part of a “clear the dungeon” challenge, I have to mark off EVERYTHING for the day to check this one off. Hasn’t happened too often, but every day I try.
  • Take out recycling — Marked as a Sunday only. I only actually have to do this every other week, but like the trash it is a disaster when I forget to take it out. They came at an insanely-early (for me) hour, so I have to do this the night before. 2 min
  • Oil table — Marked as a Thursday only, so the table is ready for any Friday-evening get-togethers. Our table is pure teak and looks divine when it is freshly oiled, but I’ve had a very hard time remembering to do this simple 1-minute task.
  • Check weather for night and open/close planters — 3 min

That leaves me at about 421 minutes for daily tasks, plus 80 minutes a week for tasks that are not really daily.  (I’m intentionally leaving out the whole “plan menus and shop” for this!)  That’s an average of just over 7 hours a day.  No problem, right?

The Little Ways We Lead Ourselves Astray

When I was growing up, I loved reading stories that had anything to do with babies and motherhood.  I remember reading about the coming-of-age ritual of wearing your hair up in the Little House books, and wishing I had something like that to mark a transition for myself.  I remember stories of girls who cared for children, who adopted children, who had children of their own, whatever the ultimate plot point, these are the things that stood out.

When I finally had children of my own, I had somehow concocted this image of the perfect mother and housewife.  My idol was some strange conglomeration of Ma Ingalls, Maureen Johnson Smith Long, and probably some goddess of an Amazon.  I felt guilt over no longer working and bringing in money, so I built up this image of the perfect housewife as the “job” I now had to do in order to earn the living Brian was providing for me and our children.  While the triplets were still in NICU, I stopped painting my nails and cut them short so I wouldn’t accidentally scratch their skin. I started wearing my hair up all the time, ostensibly out of practicality but also with the thought of that prairie rite of passage in the back of my mind. I started making lists for myself of housework, laundry, ironing Brian’s shirts, and I pursued these “job assignments” so industriously that I regret not spending more time in the hospital with the babies. (Although after a few weeks, the NICU became an incredibly boring place with little for me to do except sit in a rocking chair with one baby or another.)

Over the next years, as my babies grew and multiplied, I continued my struggle to become that perfect wife and mother.  I pursued various home organization programs with varying degrees of success but consistent loss of direct time with children.  I went from one modest hairstyle to another, again with the idea of practicality but also with those idols in my mind. Putting my hair up like a Latina Texas housewife was neat and easy, and it made me think about being able to cook everything from scratch, even the most elaborate baby food and tortillas.  Wrapping it in tichels got my hair out of my face while it dried, and it made me feel like a focused, virtuous housewife.  Letting my hair down became more than an expression, it became the reality of resuming my “real” persona when the children were absent or asleep.

In other words, the face I was showing my children (and much of the rest of the world) was a mask.

On a slightly different note, I have realized that I do not learn by instruction, not really.  I can absorb some ancillary instruction, but I primarily learn by diving in and doing.  I can’t learn a programming language in a class, or through a textbook; I have to sit down and start coding, looking up things as I need them, and only after I have done that a few times can I get some benefit from asking for guidance or looking through a book for tips and tricks.  I don’t pick up a language and retain it by studying a book, but I can jump in and start talking and reading and tack on words as I encounter them (which is why DuoLingo seems to be working so well for me, I think). Knitting, cross-stitch, math, even swimming or skiing, I don’t seem to do well with instruction or lessons.  I learn and progress best by jumping in and doing, and asking questions along the way.

I remember how I  learned to ski.  I didn’t ski until I was 15 years old, and it happened to be a first that year for my mother and brother as well.  She signed all three of us up for lessons.  They stayed with their groups all day.  Only a couple hours into my class, though, I became fed up with waiting for everybody and left the class, along with another boy.  We sped down the hill, went back up to the hillside restaurant for lunch, and then skiied on our own for the afternoon, up and down and passing our class.  My mother was furious, feeling like she had wasted her money…but I ended up skiing better by the end of that day than the rest of the people who stayed in that class, and it cost nothing to leave it.  I’ve tried other group skiing classes, but the same thing happens: I get bored or distracted, and either do something stupid or leave.  When I go one-on-one with a teacher, though, we go up and down and the teacher gives me tips.  I spend just an hour or two getting a list of tweaks and tips, and then I can spend a day or two by myself working it out, no class or teacher.  Cheaper, in the long run.

I remember all of my physical skills being the same way, whether learning to swim as a child or learning hardanger embroidery or double-knitting as an adult. I sign up for a class, scan the material, and take off on my own, learning as I go and using the instructor as a springboard for questions.  It’s what I was doing with Kender while we still had access to services from the school system, following his lead and learning with him, while using the teachers for questions and tips and advice.

What brings both of these together? A reading I got recently saying, essentially, to go with the flow.

My patron god is often seen as one of chaos, although I prefer to think of it as not being bound by rules. I do better, I learn and progress and accomplish more, in chaotic environments where I pursue a goal free of the confines of a prescribed plan or somebody else’s pace.  I work better alone, able to move and change directions at a whim (and able to assume full responsibility for any consequences), than I do as part of a team.

Why on earth have I spent so much time trying to fit my home, my motherhood, my life into this neat, clean “homeschooling housewife” box that is defined not by my end-goal but by other women around me and imaginary women in books, by all this external imagery?

My Day in Court

I went to court today.  The path there really starts with my inability to mail things, or to go into an office to take of anything, especially government things.  Back in the days before finances all went online, I probably paid more money in late fees on things than I did in interest.  I would sit down, balance the checkbook, open all the mail, write all the checks, put them all in their envelopes, even put the stamps on the envelopes…and then they would sit there for days, or even weeks, never making it to the mailbox.  I don’t know why that’s a problem for me, but I know it is, and I deal with it.  I generally don’t rely on mailing things if I can avoid it.  I pay bills online, I correspond online, I don’t send out holiday cards, etc.  As each segment of the economy has moved online, I’ve gotten better at making payments on time.

Unfortunately, this inability to get things mailed tends to extend to things like renewing the car registration, which in Michigan doesn’t even entail an inspection.  All I have to do is get it renewed before my birthday each year.  However, my birthday being right after Christmas and all, money tends to be tight, and often that renewal gets pushed right up until the deadline.  Until this year, once I got a single day past my birthday, I could no longer renew that registration online, instead having to rely on my inability to mail things.  At least twice since we moved here, that block has kept me from renewing my registration for extended periods.  This most recent time, I went an entire year with expired tags.  Unlike some libertarians, this is not actually a conscious act of activism on my part.  It’s just stupidity, although I’ll admit that once it gets to be June or July and I still haven’t gotten busted, I kinda want to see how far I can go.

I got busted last month, about a week after my birthday, my tags having expired January 7, 2013.  The cop actually ran my plates elsewhere and then followed me home, pulling in behind me to block me in the driveway and then turning his lights on.  Before those lights went on, I had no idea there was a cop on the block, and it scared the crap out of me.  He issued the ticket for the plates on the van that I was driving, warned me about the tags on the car, and left.  I proceeded to have a little meltdown, because I always end up in a near-panic state anytime I have to deal with the police.  (Always have; every ticket I’ve gotten since I was 16 has caused a meltdown, which is most of why I’m such a meticulous law-abiding driver.)  Then I went to check, and lo and behold the state had just started allowing late registrations to be paid online!  Hallelujah!  Both vehicles were registered less than 30 minutes after the ticket was issued.

As I looked over the ticket to see what I would need to do about clearing it up, I noticed something odd.  Can you spot it?

Death TicketHere it is a little closer:

No, really. Death TicketDeath?  What is that?  Somebody died because I didn’t buy the appropriate sticker from the government and affix it to my vehicle?

Now we’re in a different ballgame.  See, I was just going to go in, show my proof of registration, and pay whatever they wanted.  That would be stressful enough.  But the Death Ticket?  That demanded that I go into court and at least show it to an official.  How could I not?  A little research showed that I could ask for an informal hearing with a magistrate and the officer involved without incurring additional court costs or fines.  More research did not turn up figures for Ingham County but did indicate that nearby jurisdictions in Michigan had a 50-70% no-show rate for the officers at hearings, which would result in a default judgement in my favor, so my odds looked pretty good.  The hearing got scheduled for today, and my brother agreed to come with me for moral support.  I fully expected to end up in the same panic-mode triggered by getting the ticket in the first place.

I was in the court building once before, but it was a good 8 or 9 years ago.  Since then, they’ve installed the now-ubiquitous TSA-style metal detector doorway and x-ray machine.  Right off the bat, they said I had to take my purse back out to the car because I had knitting needles in it.  This always brings to mind an image of a grandma stabbing some random stranger to death with her pointy sticks, yarn dangling beneath.  I refuse to consider this anything but ridiculous as long as all of these checkpoints allow you to bring in all the sharpened pencils you want, and in the absence of any verified incident of actual knitting rage.  I am tempted, the next time I go to court or anywhere else like this, to bring in a large purse containing nothing but my wallet, my phone, and a gross of extremely sharp pencils.

I got in just in time, as they were waiting for me.  They.  The officer was there, which pretty much killed any chance of the ticket just getting dismissed. (He told me later that attendance is 100% required for every hearing for Ingham County officers, so fair warning to any other libertarians or voluntaryists in the area.)  Still, once we got into the hearing room and started talking, I pointed out the Death box to the magistrate.  Neither the officer nor the magistrate realized the box was checked.  Obviously, it was a mistake, the magistrate was not interested in dismissing the ticket for that alone, and I was not interested in taking the matter to a formal hearing where that kind of technicality would matter.  What I found fascinating, though, was that neither one of them had any idea of what happened to the data in those checkboxes in their system.  They couldn’t tell me whether the Death was still in the system anywhere, whether it was used in any highway fatality statistics, whether anybody would be able to pull it up in connection with my name, nothing.  The officer did promise me that he would look into it and make sure the record was amended.

In the end, the magistrate was also not interested in reducing the fine, as they sometimes do, because it had been a full year since I paid registration fees, so he ordered me to pay the full fine.  The full fine for this infraction is apparently $115.  Since the registration on the van runs about $135, and the registration for the car runs $120, this means that I still came out ahead by over a hundred dollars.  I consider that a win.

So ends the saga of the Death Ticket.  Now I just have to deal with coming off the panic-mode adrenaline rush, which is actually physically painful these days.

The Power of Intervals

Intervals are a powerful thing.  Our brains and bodies get tired and worn down if we do the same thing over and over.  Whether it’s repetitive office work, a simple task on a factory line, or just nurse-burp-change the baby, after a certain point our performance actually declines if we keep doing the same thing.  You can see it in fitness, where trainers will tell you to change your strength routine every 6-8 weeks to prevent you from plateauing or even backsliding.  You can see it in education, where if you spend more than an hour or so on the same subject, your brain just stops absorbing the information efficiently.

Intervals enable us to shake things up, to kick that boredom or even prevent it from setting in.  It could be as simple as rotating between a set number of tasks.  You can do this with circuit training or brick workouts in fitness.  Interval training in the form of the Couch to 5K system turned me into a runner eventually able to run 12 miles at a time, when I had never before been able to run even a block.  In a factory, workers can learn more than one task and then take turns rotating between them every few hours or days.  In education, you can set time limits on studying and switch subjects or stop studying all together every 30-60 minutes.

In my life, intervals are most powerful and visible around the house.  When I first got married and left my parents’ home, I was a dismal failure at housekeeping.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  Over the past 20 years, I have worked my way through several different systems, learning new things, keeping skills that work and abandoning those that don’t, and shaking things up every few years.  My home still doesn’t look nearly as good as those of my idols (Hanlie and Beth, I’m looking at you!), but it has never been worse than it was in the beginning.  (Dirty secret: my first home with Brian turned into an absolutely disgusting roach motel!!!)

My first level of improvement came with a Reader’s Digest book about housecleaning tips and tricks that I picked up, probably off a Publisher’s Clearing House order form because I did that a lot back then.  I learned about sweeping floors and how you had to keep doing it over and over. (No, really, I didn’t know that.)  I learned about repetitive cleaning tasks and how often they should be done.  I saw lists that I could check off to make sure I wasn’t forgetting things.  It wasn’t a panacea, but it was a start.  It gave me a peek into the idea of housekeeping not being some magic thing that other people were able to do, but something that I could eventually learn.

My next level of improvement came after the triplets were born.  First I found Sidetracked Home Executives, and I started trying to implement their system.  However, I was constantly derailed by perfectionism.  Here was this marvelous, beautiful, comprehensive list covering everything in my home, and how often to do it!  Only, I was trying to implement that humungous list while taking care of toddler triplets.  Talk about a recipe for disaster!  Over and over, I would tackle that list, working some nights until midnight scrubbing various things that I hadn’t gotten to during the day.  Every day, the list of things undone, the “leftovers” got longer and longer, until I would throw up my hands and quit.

Then I found FlyLady.  I have credited this woman many times with being responsible for my having more than four children.  The first couple of years after Liam was born, I still relied on a bi-weekly maid service. Things were still crazy and cluttered, only getting shoved into boxes and under beds before the maids showed up.  FlyLady taught me the power of intervals in micro, that doing a little was better than doing nothing at all…and doing just a little was okay.  She also taught me to use routines to manage daily tasks.  Following FlyLady’s advice, I was able to kick out the maids, keep things running smoothly, and feel confident enough to go for baby number 5, and not be too rattled when number 6 came along.

Then things started to slide a bit again.  I couldn’t keep up with tasks like I had been before, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.  I kept plugging away at my FlyLady lists and routines, marking things off, trying to take it one checkmark at a time.  As the kids got older, I started to delegate some of the chores, but even then I was still drowning.  Things around here for the past year have looked nothing like they did 8 years ago.  Laundry backs up on a regular basis.  Carpets don’t get vacuumed, stairs don’t get swept.  Dinner doesn’t get cooked every night.  School is no longer this orchestrated Well-Trained Mind phenomenon but a haphazard combination of unschooling and child-led learning.

Enter in another shake-up housekeeping land via HabitRPG!  I’m still doing pretty much the same things I was under FlyLady.  Now, though, they have a whole new appearance.  I’m interacting in a completely different way with my to-do list, and as easily as that, I’m moving back to the way things were.  I’ve kept the lists from my FlyLady interval, but I’ve moved on to the HabitRPG interval, and once again things are moving in a positive direction.  I don’t know how long this interval will last, but I’m starting to recognize that it is just an interval, like all the others, and eventually it will end and another will need to take its place.  Maybe I’ll need to go through another period of chaos first, I don’t know.  But the next one will come.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this one, and feel good about moving forward.

Imbolc 2014

Although we normally celebrate Imbolc on the second of February, today is when all the rituals in the area where scheduled.  A nice, clear Saturday afternoon, with everybody free of other obligations.

Except on Hoth, where snow thwarts all plans.  The weather advisories started coming out on Thursday.  Friday afternoon saw Brenden’s wrestling tournament cancelled.  By Friday evening, the advisories had started warning of ice in addition to the snow.  At that point, my own church cancelled our planned Imbolc ritual, and the other main public circle in the area offered for folks to be included in absentia in their working to cut down on driving.

It’s gotten so bad that the local high school teachers have started saying they’ll have their tests on such-and-such day, “or whenever we have school next.”  Every night, Brenden asks about school before going to bed, and I’ve started waking up automatically at 5 or 6 in the morning to brace myself for that morning phone call and text message that school is cancelled.  I think school was open less than half the usual number of days for January.  Even Brian’s office told employees to work from home for the first time in the ten years we’ve been up here.  We’re in the middle of the current snowstorm as I write this.  We’re forecast to get another 12 inches or so next Tuesday, and there is even more snow coming next Friday or Saturday, just in time to mess with our re-wedding plans.

And in the midst of all this ice and snow and cold and shoveling and frozen toes and spiking energy prices comes Imbolc.  Imbolc started out as an agricultural celebration of the time when goats and sheep would begin lactating in preparation for the spring births.  In our modern Wiccan calendar, Imbolc is the day when we are reminded to look around us and see the signs of the coming spring amidst the worst of winter.  While the snow is blowing and the temperature is still dropping, we can see the days getting longer and know that the strengthening sun will soon melt our worries away.  It is a time to light our own candles and fires to symbolically lend our strength to the sun and warm the Mother Earth while she waits. It is a time to begin planting seeds indoors (or snow-sowing!) in anticipation of the time when we will be able to plant the seedlings in our gardens.  It is a time to think about what sort of year we want this to be, what next things we want to learn and create, how we want to grow, what goals we want to accomplish.

Today I sowed my first ever winter seeds1557453_10152588250129745_1657341247_n and placed the little greenhouse on our defunct hot tub.  The snow already covering everything makes getting a level surface a little tricky, so I expect to keep a close eye on its tilt until it is firmly resting on the flat cover.  Also today, I continued working with the new task website I found, getting more things accomplished in less time than I can remember doing in years.  Sometimes a change in tactics or focus is all we need to move forward!  Tomorrow, I’ll make cinnamon rolls, the spiral of the dough symbolizing the spirals of the Goddess and the year.  I’ll take up sewing again this weekend, starting with my wedding dress.  All in all, truly a time of new beginnings in our house!

A happy and blessed Imbolc to all, and may all find warmth and peace this season!

It’s Finally Finished!

It’s done! Hallelujah, praise all the gods, drink and be merry, the match video is done!  I finally finished it Friday evening.  Since then, it’s been compiling into standard format files and uploading to the internet so I can share links with the trainers if something happens to the USB drive I’m going to Priority Mail to them tomorrow.  It is 7 hours and 45 minutes long, right about 20 GB of data in .mpeg format.  The Kender’s Match Video post has the outline of everything we put into the video.  I’ll be uploading a few pieces to YouTube and adding links to that post as I get them set up.  One of the more awesome clips I’m looking forward to sharing follows Brian and Kender through a parking lot and into the mall, and we discuss their particular style of using the mobility cane.  Not a lot of people are familiar with their constant contact technique or how and why they use it, so I’m excited to be able to share.

I started seriously working on the video again sometime around December 22.  That means I’ve spent more than a month consumed by the process of filming, editing, scripting, and captioning.  I can’t believe it’s finally over and we can move on with our life.

Next month, on February 8th, Brian and I will be renewing our marriage commitment to each other.  We’re having a big wedding and inviting all our friends and family because we practically eloped the first time around; this time, we want a big party.  I’m not planning anything fancy like your typical American movie wedding; I can’t afford that shit!  We’re going to have a ceremony full of meaning for us, though, cake and coffee to share with everybody, and a reception at home with our own homemade beer and gumbo and yummies.  We’re going to put our love on display for everybody to see and share.

Even though it will be done on a shoestring budget, there is still some planning to do.  I have two weeks now to make sure I have a dress, set up the few decorations I need, arrange for cakes or cupcakes or whatever, nail down the actual ceremony and go over it with my Priests, and book a hotel so we can run away after the reception instead of cleaning it up (Brian insisted!).

After the wedding, I will be giving my first two convention workshops ever at ConVocation later in the month.  I’m teaching two classes: Living Truth in the Face of Judgment and Fighting Perfectionism.  I need to script out the exercises I’m going to walk attendees through, make up fliers, pick and choose the stories I want to tell, etc.

Basically, I’m still going to be pretty busy for the next month!  All in a good cause, though!  Now if the weather would just warm up a teensy bit…

To-Do List

listI have this constant list of things that need to be done. The list is constantly floating through my mind like a cloud of expectations, with some things popping up and other things being forgotten and just floating away. Constantly reviewing this list is mentally and emotionally exhausting.  I know that writing these things down and making a physical list can help remove that mental stress and improve willpower, but I have resisted. I can’t quite articulate why I’ve resisted. I’ve tried it in the past, and I think I was trying to micromanage it, putting too many details into my list on Remember-the-Milk, and then like so many things I abandoned it in frustration.

I’m going to try something different today. I’m going to make a list, right here, and sort it by due dates (if any). I’m going to number the list. Then I will be able to use my dice, and whenever I have a moment and feel like Getting Things Done, I can come to my list and pick a task. I can come back to the list and see due dates approaching, so I can make more time for things as it becomes necessary. Perhaps I can make this a regular feature.

Here goes!

  1. September 1, 2013: Send teacher contractor paperwork to Foster.
  2. September 17, 2013: Plan syllabus for Vikings class.
  3. September 17, 2013: Set up display for Foster open house day.
  4. September 20, 2013: Send broken Kindle back to Amazon.
  5. September 30, 2013 (?): Get a logo made to specs for the Witches’ Ball program.
  6. October 1, 2013 (?):  Write two articles as a job interview for a magazine column.
  7. October 18, 2013: Get proper price tags set up for vending.
  8. December 31, 2013: Get Kender’s Making a Match video completed.
  9. Research Freya in light of Áine’s project.
  10. Litter-train the bunny.
  11. Set up Pixel’s Cage of Protection.
  12. Fix broken bits of the house.
  13. Scan old school paperwork.
  14. Fix dining room bookshelves.
  15. Sort games and books on hutch.
  16. Plan the garden.
  17. Update my etsy shop.
  18. Send useless GPS device back to Autism Alliance.
  19. Get new shoes for Liam and Kender.
  20. Put up a fence around the yard.
  21. Pick up the last Kender donation can still in the wild.
  22. Work on seasonal decorating around the house.

Acceptance and Integration

I got one, just one, response to my call for help, via Facebook: have everybody who is old enough do their own laundry.  Fair enough, and a technique I’ve seen used in other large families but haven’t tried here.  Since we are coming up on camp season, I will start this program when everybody gets back from camp.  I will get new towels and washrags (which we need anyway) in separate colors, so everybody can do their own of those, too.  I’ll handle mine, Brian’s, and the two youngest kids’ laundry.  No more arguing over what is or is not done, or how things are folded.

I’ve been doing a fair amount of contemplation this week, and have come (or been led) a couple of conclusions.

First, it’s about time I stop fighting the flow of life around me and start working with it.  Instead of trying to stop a river altogether (doomed to fail), or even damming it (dooming the lands behind the dam), how much better does it work to channel the river, keep the flow going but direct it where it needs to be…change the boundaries?

Second, for the first time since having kids, I have an altar that is functional and has remained undisturbed by them.  It’s time to try to set up another one to share with them.  I’ve gotten some great ideas on this, including LED candles and dolls.  There are elements of our school curriculum for the youngest two that can easily be rolled into altar devotionals and maintenance, and I hope that doing this will help avoid the problems of disrespect I’ve had in the past.

Finally, I need to establish some new physical boundaries, in particular a fence for our yard.  I think it may be time to have a little party for that one!